A couple of weeks ago I was in Vancouver, B.C., at a conference where it seemed like everyone was talking about a new book called Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change. Reviewing dozens of empirical studies, the book's central argument is that urban form is inextricably linked to climate. Low-density sprawl has been a principal contributor to North American climate emissions. And by the same token, smart compact development -- the kind that fosters less driving -- is essential to curbing climate change. From the executive summary:
It’s a little sketchily sourced, but according to Mark Hertsgaard Al Gore is “considering” joining the Rainforest Action Network in some direct action protest against coal plants — which could well result in his arrest. Hertsgaard thinks it would be a good thing: If Gore did end up getting arrested during a protest against a coal-fired power plant, it would make front-page news throughout the world and put a spotlight on what some climate scientists and activists consider the single most important priority in the fight against climate change: halting the use of coal as the world’s top source of …
No, I don't mean cost, safety, waste, or proliferation -- though those are all serious problems. I mean the Achilles heel of nuclear power in the context of climate change: water. Climate change means water shortages in many places and hotter water everywhere. Both are big problems for nukes: ... nuclear power is the most water-hungry of all energy sources, with a single reactor consuming 35-65 million litres of water each day. The Australians, stuck in a once-in-a-1000-years drought, understandably worry about this a lot:
You'll be glad to know The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has launched a major climate program whose goals are to ensure that: the increased energy prices that are an essential part of climate-change legislation do not drive more households into poverty or make poor households poorer; and climate-change legislation generates sufficient revenue both to protect low-income households and to address other needs related to the fight against global warming, so that it does not increase the deficit. CBPP is a great group. But they need to understand that a central strategy for fighting the impact of higher energy prices on low-income consumers is an aggressive energy efficiency strategy to keep overall bills from rising, which I don't see in their work so far.
Xenophobia rears its ugly head in the CAFE debate.
Thursday's the first "big day" for the Lieberman-Warner climate bill -- the first time the bill can be officially changed, for better or worse, before the vote determining whether the full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will consider it. As it stands, the bill has the support of its authors, subcommittee chair Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member John Warner (R-Va.), plus, as announced last week, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mon.). That leaves four unknowns on the subcommittee that Lieberman chairs: Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). If they all vote no, the bill dies a quiet, unexpected death in subcommittee. I say unexpected because the sense on the Hill right now is that the bill will move forward. One Democratic staffer told me that four no's is not "a likely scenario." "It's important for people to know that nobody's looking for perfection" at this stage, the staffer said. What they're looking for is evidence that some of their more fundamental concerns are addressed and that the bill doesn't just move to the full committee exactly as introduced earlier this month. That said, Lautenberg and Sanders are ambitious environmentalists, and their fundamental concerns are many. They'll likely be expecting at least some strengthening of the weak emissions-credit auction, and some sharing of the extremely generous subsidies now going overwhelmingly to coal and auto industry. (Sanders wants more for clean energy.) [See this memo (PDF) from Friends of the Earth for the sheer magnitude of the proposed handouts.] As more information comes along, I'll pass it your way, and will provide continuing coverage on Thursday.
Some harsh words just in from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):
This is an interesting commentary in Nature, right on many details if, I think, wrong in spirit. Gwyn Prins & Steve Rayner argue that Kyoto has failed and should be abandoned. Its successor policy should: Focus mitigation efforts on the big emitters Allow genuine emissions markets to evolve from the bottom up Put public investment in energy R&D on a wartime footing Increase spending on adaptation Work the problem at appropriate scales I’d say that 3 and 4 command pretty broad agreement. Everyone thinks we need to be spending far more on energy R&D. Adaptation raises some hackles, as a …
A 17-member panel of researchers from the National Academy of Sciences released a report yesterday discouraging President Bush from continuing on his quest to resume U.S. nuclear waste reprocessing. The researchers said the president’s proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership plan has not been adequately peer reviewed and relies on unproven technology. Instead, the panel suggested that money currently going to GNEP should be redirected — to speeding construction of new nuclear power plants. Sigh, and we were all set to be cheery there for a moment.